Sunday, 31 January 2016

January Roundup

January has been a reasonably productive month. Not stellar, but at least I've made some progress on a variety of fronts. THE BOSS'S SECRET is moving forward; fairly slowly, but at least it's moving. Which it wasn't at all for the last third of 2015. I'm not sure how long a story it's going to end up being. Probably between 40K to 45K words, which is a chunky sized novella.

I've also done a lot more reading in January 2016. I've read quite a few Jean Plaidy novels, but I'm taking a rest from them now. Historical novels very often feature figures from history who had very imperfect lives that do not end up happily. And while this makes for fascinating reading, it's also a bit depressing too. So sue me if I like happiness and good outcomes! That's why I like romantic stories with 'happily ever after' endings.

I've also been reading non fiction, especially the Mini Habits book, and another book from that author, How to be a Perfectionist. Both these have been enormously helpful to me in my outlook on productivity and life in general. They both promote acceptance, rather than being hard on oneself. And help one to develop a realistic and more contented way of dealing with the past and moving forward. It's all so simple, and many thanks to Stephen Guise!

I've also been thinking about redoing my web site. I decided that I'm not going to pay ridiculous annual license fees to Adobe in order to continue using Dreamweaver, so I've had to look for alternatives. Mac alternatives now that I'm a thoroughly committed Mac user. In the last week or so, I discovered Rapidweaver, and this seems to be the solution I've been looking for... and fun to use! I'm only footling about with test sites at the moment, but sometime in 2016 I hope to produce a new Portia Da Costa site. It won't be swish and glamorous like some author web sites. Not a 'cult of me' site. One of the reasons is that I don't have much in the way of author photos, and I won't be getting any new ones. I'm a fat, haggard old blob now, and due to allergies, I can't wear the makeup that might make me look marginally more presentable. That means the only pix of me going forward will be the horrible truth, in the form of goofy selfies, taken with my iPad! LOL

Things I'd like to do in coming months are finish BOSS, hopefully start something new, and maybe get some of my self published work into a print format. Maybe by bundling short things together. I've also got stuff I really, really need to get out there. It's no good to anybody just festering on various hard disks of mine.

I'm sure progress will still continue to be snail like compared to most writers, but I do feel positive and optimistic, and I hope to enjoy myself. And that's what's important to me! :)

Saturday, 16 January 2016

My spotless record!

Here's my progress chart for Mini Habits so far in 2016! So far I've hit my tiny targets every day, sometimes only just, sometimes by a mile! Go me!

W = writing
R = reading
G = getting rid of an item of junk/clutter

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

New computer spex

These are my new glasses for computer use. The slightly golden tint helps to reduce glare and eye strain and they seem to be working quite well on that score. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't get on with my new MacBook because it has a shiny Retina screen, and up until now I'd always had matte screens, but I don't seem to be experiencing any special problems with it. In fact I think it might actually be easier on the old eyes than my previous matte screen.

As for the spectacles, I think they give me a bit of a sage old George Smiley look somehow. Well, sort of...

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Flaws and issues

Am making slow but useful progress on The Boss's Secret. It's crawling along really, but some progress is better than no progress at all, so it's all a plus.

I'm reading an interesting how to book at the moment, about outlining, called Take Off Your Pants! It basically offers guidance on how to use clever outlining to help you write the book and write it faster. Which makes sense. I always used to be an outliner, but never felt very good at it, because I'm crap at plotting and you need a plot to make an outline. So, over the years, I became more of a hybrid plotter/pantser, leaning towards pantsing more, lately.

The trouble with pantsing, at least for me, is that I tend to write myself into pickles, and into stories that don't make sense, have no conflict [I hate conflict!!!!] and end up going nowhere or sounding suspiciously like something I've written before. At least once.

So I thought I'd give outlining a whirl again, specifically to help me revamp Boss.

Although I don't agree with everything in this book, it's good because it's got me thinking about the characters more, and their issues and their personality flaws etc, and the way these drive the [rudimentary, in my case] plot. I've got what I think are some workable flaws and issues for Lawrence now, but Rachel is proving harder. I realise that in the old version of Boss, she was a bit of a cypher, but I'm getting glimmerings now, of how she can be a stronger character.

The problem for me is that I don't like just picking an 'issue' out of thin air, to make a romantic conflict or whatever. I know characters have to have them, but I feel uncomfortable taking something serious and 'using' it, just to create artificial angst in what I consider a fairly lightweight piece of writing. I know my own level. I write to entertain and to provide escapist fun reads. I'm not setting out to make some great point on the human condition and all that, so I feel guilty using issues that are pretty terrible and agonising for people in real life, just to make a character arc for my fictional people.

But, having said this... this is my issue, and every writer and every reader has a different take on it, and I suspect I'm a bit of an outlier here. :)

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Murder Most Royal

Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book years and years ago, probably when I was in my teens, so I'd forgotten almost everything about it... and forgotten how good it is.

The style is a bit old-fashioned, but nevertheless it's a real page turner. Although we can't know for certain how the characters really thought and felt, Jean Plaidy does a fantastic job of making Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard believable. She creates sympathy for the women, without making them saints, and paints a particularly vivid portrait of the monster that was Henry VIII, a basically weak, self serving, self deluding egotist who had virtually no empathy. Okay, so Tudor times were radically different to ours, and the pressures of being a king were very real, but Jean Plaidy perfectly reflects the opinion I've formed of this notorious monarch, based on extensive reading.

She shows us a man who was constantly banging on about his 'conscience' while effectively not possessing one at all. He didn't give a **** about anybody but himself. A psychopath.

Sorry for the rant, but I really do dislike Henry VIII with extreme prejudice!

View all my reviews

Monday, 4 January 2016

Mork and 'Boss'

Our lad Mork is a bit under the weather at the moment. It's a combo of a recurring cough, caused by a viral thing he caught from his mum, originally, and a sore tooth that the vet discovered on examining him. He's had a jab for the cough, and when that settles down he'll be back to the vet's next week, for a dental. He's not too bad in himself, just a bit under par and not quite his usual wacky self.

Last night, I couldn't sleep very well, because I was concerned about him, so I fell to thinking quite a bit about The Boss's Secret. I think I've figured out what at least one of his secrets might be, but in many ways, he's a man of mystery, so he might have a few! I've also realised that the 'template' I had for him wasn't working, so I've switched to a new one. One of the things about Lawrence is that he's an older man. I seem to quite like writing about those, for instance, John Smith in The Accidental Trilogy was 20 years older than his lover, Lizzie. The age dynamic is fairly similar in 'Boss', although unlike John, Lawrence has prematurely white hair. And it's not quite as easy to find 'templates' for that. But as luck would have it, I've happened upon another hunk who has at least some white hair, and picturing Lawrence has him is increasing my enthusiasm for the story!

I won't say who the template is, because he's a rather unlikely one, and it's only in some photos and clips that he fits the bill. ;)

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Thoughts in the shadow of a gathering migraine

I think I might be getting a migraine today, which is a bit annoying, because I've been doing quite well so far in 2016 achievements-wise. With luck though, I might be able to fend off the worst with meds. Fingers crossed.

I was looking at my publishing schedule this year, and I discovered that I don't really have one! The only firm title is a Black Lace reprint, MASTER OF THE GAME, which comes out on the 11th February.

Master of the Game is really Continuum, an older title of mine, but hopefully a new name and a fresh new cover will bring it to the attention of readers who haven't discovered it before.

But apart from this, I have no firm publication dates. Nothing. Nada. It's my own fault, because of my hiatus and the problems I've been having with motivation, but it's still a bit of a shock for me after all these years of steady output and releases.

I'm currently working on The Boss's Secret, which is part of my Secret Pleasures self published series. I've been working on this a long, long time. I wrote a fair chunk of text before my hiatus, but all the time I was writing it, I knew it wasn't coming out right, so I ditched the whole lot and started again, completely from scratch, switching from an alternating first person present viewpoint to third person past, again alternating between the heroine Rachel's POV and that of Lawrence, the hero. I haven't done all that much yet, but it seems to be working okay. I've also altered the plot a bit, such as it is. I was getting myself all tangled up with the old version. Even for an unlikely romantic fantasy it was a bit stupid.

I think what I really need to do now is write a proper outline, so I know where I'm going... and I also need to work out what the boss's secret actually is!!! LOL

So that's my task ahead, if I beat the migraine!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Motivational pressie

In an attempt to jumpstart my commitment to writing in 2016, I treated myself to a new Macbook Pro for Christmas. My old one is still working well, but it's using an old OS, and I fear that if I try to upgrade that to El Capitan, I might lose the use of some of my older programs. So I'm using both machines at the moment, and enjoying the benefits of a newer OS, so I can use iCloud and some newer apps that I've been fancying for a while.

Lest you think I'm made of money [I'm not!] splashing out on new tech, this new Macbook is a refurbished item, from the Apple store. It's not the very latest release, with all the bells and whistles, but as a refurb, it's a lot of goodies for a significantly cheaper price than a brand new model. I'm very pleased with it so far. :)

Flipping from digital to analogue writing tools, I also treated myself to a nice new pen for Christmas too. I use fountain pens for all my notemaking, lists and personal journaling, because I love the action of writing with them. It's a simple pleasure and I enjoy experimenting with different nibs and colours of inks. This pen is a  Bexley Monarch, in Lapis Blue, and has the sweetest, smoothest nib you can imagine. I love it!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Mini Habits

In 2016, I'm trying to motivate myself by using a system called Mini Habits. This amounts to setting ridiculously tiny goals for myself each day. They're so small that it's almost impossible not to achieve them... and once they're completed, kidding myself that I might as well just do a little bit more, while I'm about it.

The system is outlined in this book and on this web site. I read the book recently, and immediately knew it could help someone like me, who's struggling with motivation. It's one of the most useful books I've read in a long time!

As part of the Mini Habits adventure, I'm reinforcing them by awarding myself stars on a Mini Habits calendar each day, if I manage to:

  1.  Write 100 words
  2. Read for 15 minutes
  3. Throw away one piece of clutter/junk
See, I told you they were very small and achievable! And I've got my three stars already today, and it's only 2.24pm.

ps. blogging isn't included in my Mini Habits, but I'm going to try and do that a bit more often too. :)

Edited to say.... 'it's almost impossible not to achieve them'. Mind you, there will still be days when I'm so useless I can't even meet those minuscule goals! LOL